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May 04, 2011

What If A Pakistani Source Did Tip Us Off About bin Ladin's Location?

Interesting idea by Michael Ledeen, who writes the article as if it's a dialogue with the ghost of grandmaster spy James Jesus Angleton.

Here's the point, or my point, anyway: We often cover up the real method by which we obtain intelligence. You always hear that among the most tip-top classified parts of intelligence are "sources and methods." No matter what, you don't give away your source, and you don't tip the method by which you discovered the intelligence, if it's novel or clever. If it's novel or clever, you can keep on doing it, until your enemies figure out what you're doing.

There is an old story (a true one) about the United States lying about how it knew about German ship and plane movements. The truth was: We cracked (mostly) the "unbreakable" Enigma code. But we couldn't let the Germans know we were reading their coded communiques. So this was the most tightly-held secret of the war (perhaps more tightly-held than the Manhattan Project).

When we would alert local commanders to expect a German attack, we would lie to the commanders about how we knew this. One lie we told was that "We have a local Italian, friendly to us, who peers over the wall around the German compound; he just saw the planes scrambling, so prepare for an attack."

We told this same local commander this lie multiple times, alerting him to an attack.

One day the local commander radioed back: "Can you ask the Italian to count how many petrol dumps they have?"

Well, we couldn't answer, because there was no source actually looking; this was all derived from Enigma transmissions. So the response came back: "He can't, he's sick today."

Well, that's the basics of the story. I forget the exact details but that's basically all true.

At any rate, the point is that the whole story of the phone call and tracking al-Kuwaiti back to Abbottabad could be a lie to hide the truth, that some source, possibly a Pakistani government official, who would rather have his involvement overlooked, came forward due to integrity or wanting that $25 million bounty.

It's possible. We've done it before. We'll continue doing it.

Ledeed further speculates (via the "ghost of James Jesus Angleton") that maybe the Pakistan government secretly revealed this to us in exchange for 1, a winding down of our anti-terrorism drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and 2, keeping the cash they've come to rely on coming.

Correction: I thought the US was also breaking Enigma by war's end, but commenters say it was only Britain, and looking online, I can't find the statement "the US also began breaking Enigma."

So the details of that part may be shaky. I think the story was about Italy or North Africa, involving US troops. How we knew, I don't know; I know it came from codes, but maybe it was the Brits' intelligence passed to us.

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posted by Ace at 05:13 PM

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